On Monday night we had an evening off here in Omaha, Neb., and after wandering the city, admiring its beautiful art deco architecture, shopping for CDs and singing Morrissey’s “Everyday Is Like Sunday” the whole time (it was Monday, and the streets were completely empty), we decided to treat ourselves to a great dinner.
I had my heart set on one of the old-school steak houses, or maybe one of the places down in the Old Market with a Wine Spectator Restaurant Award, but Kevin, our keyboard player, said he’d found the perfect place and he’d take care of getting us a reservation.
Kevin called, telling them that we were visitors from Canada. The proprietor on the other end of the line said, “Do they have jackets and ties up in Canada?” Kevin laughed uncomfortably as he looked down at his sneakers and jeans. The owner told him that we were lucky as he wasn’t usually open on Mondays, but he was serving some special regulars that night, and he’d let us eat there, too. Jim, our bass player, joined us.
The taxi crawled through the dark to a seemingly deserted residential neighborhood, where we came upon a small house with “Café de Paris” in huge neon letters above its entrance. We had resolved that if they wouldn’t accept us, dressed as we were, we’d head across the train tracks to the Old Market section of town. We held our breath, smiled, and opened the front door. The proprietor greeted us and led us to a nearby table. We started to unzip our coats, but he stopped us.
“I’m a jacket and tie man,” he said. “Please keep your coats on.” And there we sat, bundled in our winter coats, ready for a three-course French meal.
I asked for the wine list.
“I’ve been here for 37 years, and I haven’t had a wine list for the last 10. I like wine. I will choose wine for you. Would you like a glass of white wine?” Sure, we all agreed, “Fine. I will pour you something nice. I like French wine. This is a nice crisp California Chardonnay, not too much oak. French.” And he walked away.
The meal was good, even though our host refused to make eye contact with us. We all had cheesy, gloppy onion soup, which warmed our already-sweating cockles nicely, and Jim and I shared the rack of lamb for two, which was carved tableside. I suggested we order a bottle of wine to go with our entrées. No choices. The owner plunked a bottle of Chapoutier’s Crozes-Hermitage (a nice choice) down on our table. I was a bit surprised to see that it had already been opened, and a fifth of the bottle was missing!
Then, it was time for dessert. On the menu, there were three choices: Ice cream, crème brûlée and crêpes suzette, flambéed tableside. I knew which one I was having! The patron appeared at our table and said, “Tonight, I am offering you two choices for dessert,” and omitted the crêpes suzette! I inquired about the crêpes. He replied, “Tonight, I am offering you two choices for dessert.”
We ate our crème brûlée, paid the bill and thanked our host for staying open for us. Then we ran down the street like 11-year-old boys. Our reception had been chilly, but we enjoyed the food, and the experience had become a memorable comedy.
I know it sounds like we don’t do a lot of work out here on the road, just eating and drinking, but the next night we actually did a concert in Omaha that ranked among the best of the tour so far. The audience was certainly the most enthusiastic and energetic so, "Thank you, Omaha!" Now we’re heading into four in a row. A little bacchanalia in between seems to keep us creative.
That night in Omaha we experienced a little piece of history. It’s kind of nice that these places still exist, but we are thankful that most restaurants now understand that stifling formality is useless if it is at the expense of a pleasurable dining experience. Tonight we’re in Chicago, and we’re eating at Alinea, a restaurant that some have called the best in America. Just in case, I think I’ll wear a coat and tie.
Lorenzo Erlic — victoria canada — November 16, 2006 1:27pm ET
Donald C Young — des moines,ia — November 16, 2006 2:13pm ET
Bret Dublinske — Iowa — November 16, 2006 2:23pm ET
John Battista — November 16, 2006 3:48pm ET
Steven Page — November 16, 2006 4:02pm ET
Dr M Vinciguerra — Port Washington, NY — November 16, 2006 4:29pm ET
Steven Page — November 16, 2006 6:49pm ET
Steven Page — November 16, 2006 7:46pm ET
Andrew Norrie — Toronto, ON — November 17, 2006 8:35am ET
Bret Dublinske — Iowa — November 17, 2006 12:30pm ET
Anthony Clapcich — November 17, 2006 1:17pm ET
Charles Ehm — Mill Valley, CA — November 17, 2006 6:36pm ET
John Mccann — Frankfurt, Germany — November 18, 2006 4:51pm ET
Christine Blumer — Chicago — November 18, 2006 8:59pm ET
Eileen Stamp — USA — November 19, 2006 8:48pm ET
Mr-mrs Thomas Myers — Chevy Chase, MD — November 20, 2006 12:35am ET
Jerry Wright — Albuquerque, NM — November 20, 2006 2:09pm ET
Robert Mathews — November 21, 2006 1:09am ET
Wines Vines — November 21, 2006 7:53pm ET
James Floyd — Calgary — December 5, 2006 1:22am ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions